MacArthur network grant supports Pollak’s research

A $550,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation will allow the MacArthur Network on the Family and the Economy to finish its long-term research project investigating the dynamics of family functioning and the well-being of children born to unmarried parents.

Robert Pollak
Robert Pollak

Robert A. Pollak, Ph.D., the Hernreich Distinguished Professor of Economics in Arts & Sciences and the Olin School of Business, co-directs the network. It brings together 13 scholars in economics, sociology, developmental psychology and public policy to advance understanding of the connections between families, labor markets and the economy as a whole.

The network seeks to have an impact on the way social scientists and policy-makers think about the relationship between families and the economy.

The funding represents the final award in a series of grants provided by the MacArthur Foundation to support the network’s research. It will be used to complete a landmark multiyear study called “Time, Love and Cash Among Couples With Children” (TLC3).

“Studying unmarried parents is important because one-third of all U.S. children are now born to unmarried parents, yet scientific understanding of such families is weak,” Pollak said. “Studying these relationships provides unprecedented opportunities to advance our understanding of some of the most vital domestic policy issues of our time, with profound implications for the well-being of current and future generations of Americans.

“TLC3 examines the complex relationships among father, mother and child, and the positive and negative factors that enhance or diminish the chances for a stable relationship.”

Pollak noted that TLC3 and a related study, “Fragile Families and Child Well-being,” are gaining prominence in the national debate over welfare and other policies that affect poverty, marriage and the well-being of children.

“Effective social policy must be based on a sound understanding of the social problems it seeks to address, yet our scientific understanding of the factors that forge strong and healthy adult bonds in low-income, unmarried couples is astonishingly thin,” he said. “TLC3 will make an enormous contribution to debates over policies intended to strengthen families and improve educational and other outcomes for children.”

Pollak’s work with the network is part of his longtime research focus on the demography and economics of the family. In 1995, he published a book on his research findings — From Parent to Child: Intrahousehold Allocations and Intergenerational Relations in the United States — with Jere Behrman and Paul Taubman.

He is working on a book on family decision-making and family bargaining.

In addition to this interest, Pollak has written on consumer demand analysis, environmental policy and the theory of the cost-of-living index. He is the author of more than 70 articles and serves on the editorial boards for a number of economic journals.